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Carry-on ONE Bag

Save money and time - learn to pack light and right and fly with only one bag. The new checked luggage fees charged by most airlines are frustrating many travelers. To avoid the fees, learn to pack less. Ideally everyone will learn to fly with just one bag!


Packing expert and author Susan Foster has been teaching travelers what and how to pack for years. Her book, Smart Packing for Today's Traveler, is called "the packing bible". Susan says packing light and right takes several steps - plan, select, edit, pack, go. Of these, the plan and edit parts are the most important. Susan packs for a three week trip to Europe in one 22" rolling bag, and is well dressed for events from sightseeing to business meetings to dressed up dining.


The benefits to packing in one carry-on bag:  


  • You save money by not paying checked luggage fees. Most airlines now charge $15 for the first checked bag and $25 for the second. That adds up to an $80 charge for a round trip just for your checked luggage. Multiply that times the number of family members traveling: 4 x 80 = $360 for two bags per person for a family of four! And, United Airlines recently announced they are increasing the fee for the second checked bag from $25 to $50 each way and other airlines may follow.  
  • You save time by not waiting in line to check your bag or to retrieve checked luggage.
  • You avoid delayed or lost bags by having everything with you onboard.
  • You are able to stay flexible. When flights are delayed or canceled, you are a captive of the airline that has your checked belongings. With your bag in your possession, you may be able to rebook onto another flight on a different airline.


Here are Susan's seven smart tips to scale down to one bag:


1. Start with a small bag. It is human nature to fill the available space so start small (the largest legal carry-on is 22" x 14 "x 9"). Make use of every inch of real estate in the bag - fill shoes with rolled up socks or underwear, roll casual clothes and tuck into the "valleys" created inside the bag by the handle assembly.


2. Mix and match. Let go of the idea of wearing a different outfit each day. Pack interchangeable pieces based on one basic color, and plan to wear each piece more than once. Two pairs of dark slacks plus one jacket plus four shirts/blouses will last for one week. For two or more weeks, launder/clean and repeat. Pack clothes that you love so you feel good wearing the same things many times in different combinations.


3. Choose items that pack small. A thin wool or cashmere sweater packs smaller than a sweatshirt; micro-fiber slacks pack smaller than jeans; loafers pack smaller than boots.

  Several lighter weight layers are as warm but pack smaller than a bulky coat.


4. Take only 3 pair of shoes - wear one and pack no more than two. Shoes are bulky and heavy; if you can cut back more here it makes a huge difference.


5. Minimize cosmetics and toiletries by taking only the amount needed for the trip. One ounce of shampoo lasts two weeks with daily use, so any more is excess weight. Buy travel/sample sizes (www.minimus.biz is a great resource) or transfer to really small containers.


6. Do laundry. Go high tech and purchase quick-drying underwear, socks and tee-shirts made of wicking fabrics. Wicking fabrics absorb perspiration so are comfortable to wear plus they wash easily in the bathroom sink and dry overnight (or less).


7. Just take less. Avoid the "what-if's" that lead to multiple suitcases. Pack for what is known and for logical possibilities. Logical: rain, so pack the raincoat and umbrella. Not logical: an impromptu formal dinner, so leave the evening clothes at home.


These simple steps can mean the difference between total frustration and just minor inconvenience the next time you fly. For other smart packing and travel tips, visit www.smartpacking.com.


Prefer to check your one bag?


Susan often prefers to check her 22" rolling bag. She willingly pays the $15 per direction. Here's why:


  • Longer screening lines take more time. The more things people carry onto the plane, the longer security checks take, as each item must go through Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening.
  • Minimal cosmetics and toiletries are allowed. The TSA 3-1-1 rule mandates that liquids and gels be removed from the suitcase and screened separately. Each passenger is allowed a single one-quart zip- top baggie with containers of no more than 3 ounces each of liquids or gels. Can you live for the duration of your trip with that small amount, or buy at your destination?
  • Can you lift 35 pounds over your head? Susan says she has problems getting her fully loaded bag up into the overhead bin as she is a short woman with only moderate upper body strength. And it is each traveler's job to lift that bag, not the flight attendant's nor your seatmate's.
  • Bins are full. Overhead bins were full before airlines decided to charge fees for checked luggage, and they are overfull now. Unless you are boarding early, you may not find a place for your bag, as there simply is not one space per seat. "Bin rage" results when too many passengers vie for the same limited overhead storage space.
  • Always pack so that your bag can survive as a checked bag, which may be required at the gate. And don't even think about carrying on during holiday travel seasons.


Some 3-1-1 quart bag survival strategies:


  • Don't be picky, plan to use whatever products your hotel supplies


  • Choose alternatives to liquids or gels - stick deodorant in place of liquid roll-on, powder makeup in place of liquid that don't need to be in the 3-1-1 bag


  • Pack combination products like moisturizer with sunscreen


Learning to pack less will allow you to travel with only one carry-on bag or to choose to avoid all carry-on hassles and to check your bag. Either way, you'll save on those pesky bag fees and spare your poor back. Lighten your load and have more fun!


For other useful packing tips and helpful articles visit www.smartpacking.com.



Meet Susan Foster


Packing and living out of a suitcase is more than a once-in-awhile thing for Susan Foster. It has been a learn-as-you-go experience for her during the past 30 years. "I shudder now to think of the days when I traveled with two enormous fifty-pound suitcases," she reminisces. "Today I manage just fine with a 22-inch roll-aboard case," she proudly states. "If I want to bring items I can't carry on (like beauty potions and lotions), I will check my bag but still limit it to the 22-inch case."


As a consummate outsider/insider of the travel industry, Susan has become an authoritative media source regarding the ever-changing airline and TSA rules and guidelines as well as packing in general for almost any occasion. She is also a past spokesperson for Johnson & Johnson, and a popular professional speaker.

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